Core User Hints and Tips
To help you get started we asked our Core Users to provide some useful hints and tips; we have not been disappointed. This information has come from our most productive users who have much experience of researching Home Front sites, and have many hours of using the Home Front Legacy recording app to record sites.
Researching Your Local Area
To start off, here’s some valuable research tips from Pam:
“Any research about your town should always start in the library. Kelly’s Directory is a valuable source. The 1909 & 1919 entries show a record of buildings, people & addresses that you can track over the period of the war.
The first couple of pages are so relevant as it summaries public buildings, schools, cinemas churches, police station, drill hall etc. From the next part of the book you can see location of the public buildings and other useful information such shops , numerical sequencing of numbers of houses, villas, and who lived where! The library also holds many books you will not find online- look for the older published local history books , they often include valuable information.
Once you have found a site, go to the map section. Many library archives will hold older maps of the area, this will clearly show again location of many historic & public buildings.
Now a you have the visual map in your mind search any historical town websites that maybe available. This will show research already done hopefully with evidence such as photographs. If you want to copy and use the photographs please ask permission of the site holder, & quote source in any reproduction you may use it for.
Newspapers are an excellent source, it takes time and after an hour your eyes go blurry with the viewer, if they haven’t been digitised.
Subscription websites are always useful, but not always necessary, such as:
British Newspaper Archives– Read the stories about the towns by searching key words such as VAD or Belgian refugees, ensure correct dates are entered or you will end up with a zillion pages to read.
Now walk around your town , look for the addresses of the public buildings, look up as many shops have developed new frontage but the buildings are still there. Take photographs and use these to upload onto the Home Front legacy website.
The recording app is easy to use, by using two fingers you can move the map around to your town when using a tablet or smartphone device. Using the Google Maps layer, which is accessed via the Cog Icon, will show you the current view of your town.
Recording on the app is easy, ensure all asterisks boxes are filled, record type of site and upload your evidence in the ‘Attach site files’ section.
If you are really into research make contact with the schools if they existed 100 years ago & ask if they hold records, school logs books or magazines for that period. Many public schools will hold these records in their libraries. If not the nearest library that holds the archives may have them.
Knowledge can be gained from these such as if the children raised funds for the war effort or if they grew vegetables for the local VAD hospital etc.
If you are lucky enough to live in a town with a museum go ask the curator if they hold any relevant information either on display or in their archives about the town in WW1.
Be aware this can be addictive!”
Further Sources of Information, Interpretation and Pillboxes
Chris provides further advice for researching sites in your local area:
“Pay equal attention to physical remains on the ground and to researching original documents. Significant finds are still turning up in both categories, even a century on. Even original documents do not give the whole picture; I have found much in the field that is missing from documentation, and vice versa. Fieldwork is easiest when vegetation is low, in the winter. Fresh finds on the ground can be made when vegetation is cut back, or after a tidal surge reveals objects on the beach, even in an area you think you know well.
The most important thing is to keep an open mind and not be convinced that you already know it all. Even for something as specific as anti-invasion defences in one county, I am amazed by how much I DON’T know. The great risk is to think that you have exhausted all the possibilities of any particular area of research; it’s important to keep questioning what you think you know. For example, a site at Stiffkey in Norfolk that everyone I knew was convinced was a WW1 pillbox, may in fact be a non-defensive structure from a later period. If you close your mind to other possibilities, you will ignore additional evidence that can help reach a new conclusion.
As experience grows, you will be able to see patterns. For example, with WW1 pillboxes often being found in pairs, when a lone one turns up it should prompt a search for a second one. Or perhaps a second one was long since demolished, and a more thorough search of the documents is in order. However small an individual piece of research is, or a single archaeological find, they help to build up a bigger picture that can be helpful to so many people.
Documents can be found in scattered places – The National Archives, Royal Engineers records, local record offices, private collections, sometimes even eBay. For my own area, I am still finding previously unknown sites on postcards, in photos in otherwise unrelated books, on old maps, in one case even in a fictional thriller from the 1930s. The wider you spread your net, the more you will find. There is still so much that has not been comprehensively searched; the great danger is to think it’s already been done.
Unlike 20 years ago there are now some excellent books out there- soak them up wherever possible.
In terms of using the recording app, I would actually print out the categories you need to record. The paper based recording forms and Site Type Thesauri are available in the Member toolkit. It’s easy to miss something in the field, then later realise you forgot to note, say, what the building material is. If possible, a photo will make it much easier for someone to follow up and find the same site with an idea of what it looks like.”
Corroborating Sources and Finding Sites On The Ground
John recommends the following:
- Try and find more a corroborative source for your information as the internet re-cycles incorrect data. Old postcards, photographs, directories and newspaper articles can identify sites or give a clue where to look.
- Historic mapping has been useful in identifying Drill Halls and Auxiliary Hospitals where a house name could be found.
- Watch out for re-named and re-numbered streets as I have returned from several trips having photographed the wrong buildings. If the building looks wrong it is probably wrong but be prepared to be surprised as after further research there are some odd ones out there.
- The easiest method is to upload the site details from your PC or tablet at home where you can take your time and get the information together and check details.
- Take a look at the level of information that has been recorded for various sites. The more information the better but it is probably better to have something recorded than nothing, especially if you have new details.
- Try not to be too discouraged when there are glitches with uploading to the site. There are some known problems with apostrophes and including web addresses in fields. Any problems contact the website and ask for help.
- Turn off ‘auto-complete’ during submission.
Entering Your Information
Duncan recommends that you:
- Take your time and don’t rush.
- Type entries out in Word first to ‘proof read’ them, then copy and paste in to the ‘Site Description’ box.
- Take the time to zoom in accurately with the site map cross-hairs to take your grid reference. Using the Google Earth mapping layer can help you to take an accurate grid reference for buildings and earthworks.
Thank You to our Core Users
The Home Front Legacy team would like to thank our Core Users for taking the time to share their experience and advice. Please feel free to contact the team if you would like to provide a case study, or if you have any subjects you would like to see covered.